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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Weapons shortage in the Civil War

Flipping through Carolyn Bartels' The Civil War in Missouri Day by Day I found an interesting entry for the skirmish at Linn Creek on October 14. I'll tell you about it today because tomorrow I'll be participating in the Pay it Forward Blogfest.

Union Major Clark Wright had heard that the town of Linn Creek in south central Missouri was occupied by rebels, so he sent two of his men in civilian clothing to check it out. They didn't come back and fearing the worst, Wright advanced with his entire regiment towards town. Local rumor said there were 200 rebels there. He surrounded the town and ordered the rebels to surrender. Instead they tried to shoot their way out. The Union troops immediately returned fire. The fight was brisk for a short time but because both sides had good cover only one man was wounded, on the rebel side.

As Major Wright noted in his report, "The scene was a wild one. The activity of the cavalry in guarding the avenues of the place, arresting the citizens, and the rebels running to and for; the screams of secesh wives, daughters, and children; the firing from both sides echoing back form the bluffs on either side, made the whole thing look somewhat frantic."

After half an hour the rebels realized they weren't going to escape and surrendered. At this point Major Wright discovered he wasn't facing 200 rebels, merely 37. Along with the Confederates he captured, "horse, 5; mules, 2; guns, 26; holster-pistols, 2; 1 keg powder; 1/2 bushel of bullets."

It's interesting that for 37 rebels he only got 28 guns. Assuming nobody had more than one gun, that still leaves 9 rebels unarmed. Supply was a serious problem for the Confederates in the Trans-Mississippi throughout the war. Numerous Union reports from Missouri in 1861 state that the captured arms were shotguns, squirrel guns, or antique muskets. It was a lucky rebel who had an Enfield like the one pictured above, and few had more modern weapons such as the Springfield rifled musket or Sharps rifle. As the war dragged on, the rebels managed to take better weapons off dead or captured Union soldiers. They would never get enough.

Wright never said what happened to those two missing men. They weren't listed as casualties or desertions, so I assume they came out OK.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Hi there,
    Thankyou so much for stopping by my blog. I have popped over from alex's blogfest. Lovely to meet you and you have a new follower. xoxo
    Eve. :)

  2. p.s your words were so true, I will try to stand by that :)


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